Forest Student Government introduced a new executive board role, Woodland Relations, after freshman and former Woodland Eatery employee Grace Desserich expressed her desire to increase transparency and communication between residents and IU dining staff.
Working alongside Forest Student Government president Parul Gupta and graduate supervisor Brian Gelbach, Desserich was appointed Director of Woodland Relations. Since this is the first year the position exists, there are no enumerated duties within the Forest Student Government constitution. However, Desserich aims to plan a number of events with the ultimate goal of fostering a positive relationship between students and Woodland Eatery employees.
“It is a new position this year and it was mainly created because, at the beginning of the year, I worked at Woodland and I always got so frustrated with how the workers were treated and just the bad relationship between the kids who live in Forest and the dining hall,” Desserich said. “We decided it would probably be a good idea to have someone in the middle of that and be able to handle complaints from the students but also try to implement things for Woodland as well.”
In an effort to show their appreciation for IU dining workers, Desserich and Gupta planned Woodland Appreciation Day on Oct. 26. In order to maintain social distancing, residents wrote kind notes of encouragement under the “pickup instructions” tab on the GrubHub app.
“I think what really spearheaded it all is one day I was picking up breakfast and on my breakfast, they wrote ‘have a great day’ and a smiley face,” Gupta said. “No one asked them to do that, it was just the sweetest thing ever and it made my morning. I just feel like they put in a little extra effort to make us students feel appreciated and comforted, so we wanted to do something to make them feel the same way.”
Gelbach fully supported the idea, as he believed it was a creative way to host a positive event virtually. However, he recognized that Woodland Appreciation Day was just the start, and that Forest Student Government and residents must work to establish an environment where IU dining workers are appreciated every day, not just during special events.
“Especially during the time of COVID and everything like that, IU Dining has had to go through a lot of really drastic changes just to make sure that the people on campus, especially residents, eat and have these facilities open,” Gelbach said. “Any small way that we can show our appreciation for them I think is important. Hopefully, it’s not something that is just a one day thing and people don’t need a reason to be showing appreciation, whether it be to employees at Woodland or the employees at any of IU Dining facilities.”
Determined to create a lasting sense of positivity, Desserich plans to utilize her new position as a way to relieve the stress felt by many dining hall workers. She believes that small positive changes to everyday interactions could improve the dining hall experiences of students and workers alike.
“With COVID and the climate we’re working in right now, everything is so divisive and polarized, and it’s so easy to be nasty to people that you’ve never met,” Desserich said. “This position is just a good way to spread positivity. That’s my main goal during COVID times because it’s so easy to be so negative, but the minute you start introducing positivity into the small aspects of your life, like where you get your food every day, it really works towards a greater goal.”